Whether it’s out with the lads for a bit of craic, or just trying to get one over on your boyfriend on date night, we all have on thing in common when it comes to bowling: we want to WIN!
Bowling is a tricky old game, as I’m sure you know all too well from all those pesky gutter balls and splits you get every time you go to your local Leisureplex for a game or two. There’s a lot more too it than just chucking a heavy yolk at some slightly less heavy yolks 🤣🤣🤣.
Never fear, though, our resident bowler & marketing executive (and current Irish international bowler!) Jason Byrnes is here to give you some top tips to make sure you have the edge on your mates next time you lace up!
Top Tip #1: Choose The Right Ball
First things first, there’s no bonus points for trying to be macho and trying to use the heaviest ball in the place! When it comes to knocking down all ten for a strike, accuracy is more important than how heavy the ball is. This is the most common mistake made by casual bowlers. If you’re struggling to hold the weight, then you’re gonna struggle to repeat good shots. Always remember, the balls all get the same score in the gutter – zero! So before you bowl next time, make sure the ball you choose fits your fingers as snug as possible, as this will usually mean you’re using the correct weight for your hand size (balls of different weights normally have different sized holes), and the better the ball fits your hand, the more control you have over where it goes after you let it go. Just don’t jam you’re fingers into a kids ball and get them stuck, that’ll be fairly embarrassing!
Top Tip #2: Don’t Look At The Pins!
Yes you read that right! Skilled bowlers do not look at the pins as they throw the ball towards them. Next time you’re on the lanes, have a quick look at the lane before you start bowling. You’ll notice a row of arrows, approximately half-way down the lane. These arrows are actually there to be used as targets. The arrow right in the middle of the lane is actually lined up directly with the centre of the headpin (also known as the number 1 pin, located at the very front of the pins). Each arrow is 5 inches apart, and if you look super-close you’ll notice the lane is actually made up of 39 individual floorboards, all of which are 1 inch wide, so you’ll see that there are 5 of these boards between each arrow.
A good place to start is to aim for the middle arrow, but you’ll find that you need to adjust one way or the other as you go on depending on where the ball ends up. Also ideally you want to put the ball right in between the head pin to the right of it (or left of it if you’re a lefty), so don’t try to throw it straight at the middle of the headpin, that will get you nothing but splits! Also watch out for trends here. If the ball is missing the headpin to the left every time, you’ll need to adjust you’re starting position with your feet to the left to line up better, but more on that later in the list!
Top Tip #3: Don’t Try To Make The Ball “Hook” Like The Pros
If you’ve ever watched professional bowling on TV, or even watched the league bowlers in your local Leisureplex, you’ll notice that nearly all of them make the bowling ball curve as it goes down the lane. Although this can look pretty cool, and skilled bowlers have a very good reason for doing this, it can take years of practice both to learn how to do this properly and also to understand the scientific reasons behind how it helps improve scores. (Amazingly there is actually a LOT of science behind bowling. if you’re interested in getting an idea of just how much, I encourage you to google the science behind how bowling balls are made, the different oil conditions that can be put down on a lane, and many other aspects of the professional game).
Also, the bowling balls made for casual bowling are actually designed not to curve a lot, so as to make the game a bit more straight-forward for beginners. So even if you think you know how to do it properly, it won’t help you out in the long run. Keep things simple when it comes to how you throw the ball. Keep your swing as straight as possible and don’t try to throw it too hard. That’s the best recipe for success for now!
These first 3 tips are perfect for starters. Keep these in mind for your next couple of trips to the lanes and you should see some immediate improvement! These next two tips are a bit more complicated than the previous tips, so I suggest getting your head around the first 3 tips first before trying out these ones!
Top Tip #4: Match Your Steps To Your Swing
Ideally you should not be throwing the ball from a standing start. Again if you watch skilled bowlers, you’ll see that they actually walk towards the start of the lane (also called the foul line, as it is a foul if you cross the start line, another free tip folks!) and swing the ball at the same time. This is something that skilled bowlers work on every single time they practice. It is one of the fundamental skills which determine how successfully you can repeat good shots, and bowling is all about repetition. The more you can repeat the same technique, the more successful you will be. The basic idea here is to try to match up your swing and your steps, so that they are as in-sync as possible.
For starters, I would suggest you take four steps with your feet in your technique (which in bowling is called your approach). If you are a right-hander, you need to arrive at the foul line with your left foot. This will best allow your body to stay out of the way as the ball swings by it. So you will need to take your first step with your right foot to make sure your fourth and final step is with your left foot. (For left-handers the opposite applies, so take your first step with your left foot and arrive at the foul line with your right foot.) As you start taking your first step, start pushing the ball away from your body, so that your feet and your arm are moving in sync. This way you’ll have the best chance of having your feet and the ball arriving at the foul line at the same time as you let the ball go. This will give you the best chance to be more accurate more often.
Top Tip #5: Start By Standing In The Right Place
My final tip for now comes back to those 1-inch-wide floorboards I spoke about briefly earlier. Next time you’re on the lanes, have a close look at the floor. You’ll notice that it’s completely made up of these little individual floorboards. These boards are used by skilled bowlers, not only as targeting aids, but also as a guide on where to stand before they take their shot. The floorboards are numbered 1-39, from right to left (for right-handers, it’s left to right for lefties). Every five boards there is a little dot to help you make sure you’re on the right starting board, and these dots line up with the targeting arrows on the lane that I mentioned earlier.
Right-handed players will line up with their left foot, and left-handers vice-versa. This is done to help you line up properly before taking your shot, allowing you the best chance to make an accurate shot. The general rule-of-thumb is that there is 7 floorboards between where your left foot (known as your sliding foot) finishes up at the foul line and where your right hand lays the ball down onto the lane. So if you want the ball to go over the third arrow from the right, which is on board 15, then your left foot should be placed 7 boards to the left of this before you start, so on board 22.
You can then adjust your starting point appropriately if you are not getting the ball to go exactly where you want when it gets to the pins, so if you’re missing the head pin to the right, you can move your feet a couple of boards to the right and you should get the ball closer to the headpin. This takes a lot of getting used to, so the key unfortunately is just practice, practice, practice!
There you have it. Keep these tips in mind and I guarantee you will be taking your mates down in no time! And you can never practice too much, so don’t be afraid to get down to your local Leisureplex for some sneaky practice in-between trips with the lads or girls. And if you really want to learn more about the basics of bowling, and maybe even want to think about taking it up competitively, make sure you enquire at your local Leisurpelex. They can put you in touch with some great coaches who you can organise coaching sessions with, and who knows, in a few months you could be joining your first league!